North St. Paul to unveil new city logo

Looking for a sign of the past? The City of North St. Paul is in the process of replacing city street signs as the current ones did not meet federal standards. On Monday, Feb. 2, the old  smaller blue signs will go up for auction at Luther Auctions starting at 6 p.m.; to see if “your” street is there, check the preview Sunday from 4-8 p.m. or Monday before the auction. In other news, the 44-foot concrete snowman recently made the “Explore the ‘World’s Largest’ across Minnesota” MPR list. (Linda Baumeister/R
Looking for a sign of the past? The City of North St. Paul is in the process of replacing city street signs as the current ones did not meet federal standards. On Monday, Feb. 2, the old smaller blue signs will go up for auction at Luther Auctions starting at 6 p.m.; to see if “your” street is there, check the preview Sunday from 4-8 p.m. or Monday before the auction. In other news, the 44-foot concrete snowman recently made the “Explore the ‘World’s Largest’ across Minnesota” MPR list. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

For as long as anyone at City Hall in North St. Paul can remember, the city logo has featured a three-tiered, cattywampus snowman with a top hat and outstretched arms. He's certainly reminiscent of the city symbol out on Margaret Street and Highway 36, but his middle section would topple him over if he weren't already curved at an odd angle.

While the origins of this initial logo seems to have been lost — the name of the designer remains a mystery, as well as the exact date the logo was adopted in the 1970s — sentiments for the snowman itself stay strong.

Agreed: snowman is cool
The iconic 44-foot-tall stucco snowman that now sits at Margaret St. and Highway 36 has welcomed people to the city of North St. Paul for the past 40 years. Given its high profile, city officials decided to keep this image central to the new city logo that they will unveil at City Hall on Jan. 27, as part of rebranding efforts to help the city thrive in 2015.

"We're trying to take a renewed approach to the community to attract new business, new residents," says City Manager Jason Ziemer. "I think the new logo provides a freshness. It pays tribute to the snowman that's a block from city hall. I think that's the thing that people really take pride in."

With so much pride attached to the snowman, the design process involved a number of submission, consultations and deliberations. Ziemer says people had been expressing an interest in updating the city logo long before he joined the conversation in 2013.

The project gained traction in the fall of 2013, when the city partnered with design students from the University of Minnesota, as part of the Resilient Communities Project. The city reserved the right to retain its old logo, but gave eight students the opportunity to present two original designs and provided feedback.

Ultimately, Ziemer says, the city council decided that none of the student submissions featured the snowman as prominently, or as classically, as they would have liked.

"I think they all did a fabulous job with the design. They just weren't right for North St. Paul," says Ziemer, who then started the process of getting a professional graphic designer involved in the project.

After two city council workshops dedicated to consultations with the graphic designer, Barry McCullough, who had produced more than 60 variations of a snowman-centered logo, the city council came to a unanimous decision.

Ziemer says they chose not to open discussions up to the public because an avalanche of opinion might have buried the project. Thus, the McCullough selection gave the project to a professional who knows how to best consider aspects like usability on everything from letterhead to signs into account.

"We definitely took it from an approach that this one would stand for a long period of time," says McCullough, noting he personally has long associated the snowman with North St. Paul since he'd always see it driving by.

"It was a great [project]. Instead of just trying to make something fresh out of leaves or trees, you get a snowman. How cool is that!" he said, comparing this project to the logos of surrounding cities.

What changes? At what cost?

In order to implement the new logo, the city will be replacing decals on police and fire vehicles, switching out park signs, ordering new letterhead and business cards, and updating the logo in employee email signatures and everywhere else it might appear. It's an expensive process, but the city can save money by waiting for some of the items with old logos to be phased out.

"We're very cognizant to not incur a bunch of unnecessary expenses," Mayor Mike  Kuehn says.

For instance, Kuehn says the handful of street signs recently replaced to meet new federal standards will not be replaced anytime soon, even though they bear the old logo. Moving forward, however, the remaining street signs will incorporate the new logo. (The retired street signs will go on auction at Luther Auctions on Mon., Feb 2).

Ziemer says it won't cost the city much to switch out the vinyl lettering on city vehicles, so that will happen early on. But city employees will use up things like city envelopes and business cards until it's time to place an order for these items with the new logo.

As for the cost of hiring a graphic designer to create the new logo, the city spent $3,400. The price tag seems reasonable, considering that, in  McCullough's estimates, new logos can cost cities more than $60,000 in design expenses alone.

"I could keep my costs low because they were not doing explorations into what the icon should be," says McCullough. "We just focused on the snowman itself."

With the details of the new logo still kept fairly elusive, city staff are looking forward to the official unveiling at the end of the month.

"I'm hoping the people will embrace the new logo," says Kuehn. "It's a change, but we think it's a good time to do it."

The unveiling of the new logo will be held at City Hall from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan 27. The event will include refreshments, North St. Paul trivia, a gift giveaway and samples of apparel with the new logo that can be purchased online.

"The redesign marks a new chapter for the community of North St. Paul," reads the announcement in the last city newsletter. "Not only is the new logo a reflection of the history of our community, but one of great vision and symbol."

Erin Hinrichs can be reached at 651-748-7814 and ehinrichs@lillienews.com. Follow her at twitter.com/EHinrichsNews.

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